Each season, as the trading deadline approaches, the thirty-two teams that comprise Major League Baseball must all take a long, hard look at themselves and ask if they have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs. If so, should they be looking for that extra piece to the puzzle which may push them over the edge and into a World Series berth? If not, should they declare the season a wash and start trading away players with cumbersome contracts and dwindling skills and hope to rebuild anew the following season by stockpiling prospects?
To aid the Washington Nationals, Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell was kind enough to answer the question for them and point them in the direction he thinks they should go. While the Nationals are probably ecstatic to be receiving advice from a sports writer, the quality of the advice and his overall baseball knowledge is up for debate.
On July 27, four days before the trade deadline, the Nationals will be at .500 and on the edges of the NL wild-card race.
Wait a minute, how do you know that? Thomas Boswell, are you a psychic? Can you also predict how many inane statements you are going to make in this article? Several, you say? Wonderful.
Cut out this prediction so you can send it to me baked in a crow pie. A team that went 30-49 after last July 5th, then was abysmal in spring training and started this season 13-27, is about to inspire talk of a winning year. RFK will bounce again soon.
Two other teams who were abysmal in spring training were the Boston Red Sox (9-20) and the Chicago White Sox (10-19).
And you want to know two teams who did really awesome in spring training? That's right, the Florida Marlins (19-9) and the Los Angeles Angels (20-11).
Now, let's take a quick look at their regular season records up to this point.
Boston Red Sox: 33-23
Chicago White Sox: 35-22
Florida Marlins: 20-36
Los Angeles Angels: 26-32
Next time you are trying to make an argument for how bad a team is, you might want to leave out the team's spring training record, since spring training rosters are not really indicative of regular season ones.
Last year, the Nats had an insanely difficult schedule, playing 104 games against winning teams. If an 81-81 record can be remarkable, theirs was.
Actually, Thomas, you may have a point here. The Nationals did outperform their Pythagenport record by four games, but I would not exactly call that remarkable, as teams do better than their Pythagenport record all the time. I would call it good, instead.
Last year's Nats were a perfect example with a season progression of 23-18, 1-7, 26-6, 9-24, 18-16 and 4-10. Where's the .500 team in that statistical mess?
Funny you should ask. Here's the answer to your rhetorical question. When you add all the wins together and all the losses together and they come out to be the same number, then voila, you have found your .500 team.
What's going to keep the Nats from playing 25-19 ball to get to .500? After all, by next week the Nats will have their best pitcher and best hitter of last season, John Patterson and Jose Guillen, back from the disabled list.
Actually, their best hitter from last season was Nick Johnson, who in 64 less plate appearances still posted a higher VORP than Jose Guillen (34.1 to 26.6). Johnson also posted a higher OPS+ (139 to 118), a higher MLVr (.258 to .140), and a higher RC/27 (6.69 to 5.46).